For Obama in New Orleans: Remember "God don't like ugly."
Robert Gibbs, before he went into hiding, announced that President Obama would visit New Orleans on August 29 "to help mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina." One suspects that if it is left to Pflouffe, Axelrod & Co. the bon temps will rouler in tendentiously partisan festivities about as life affirming, and with eyes as affixed to the broad uplands of hope and promise for the restored Crescent City, as the typical funeral rites of a Middle Eastern suicide bomber.
Lest Mr. Obama's recently widely identified disconnection with mainstream Americans surface once again, someone should warn him that in New Orleans there is a local admonition against "bringing up all that ‘Who shot John' mess" i.e. extraneous harping on negative events in the past.
There are two good reasons to observe the injunction. First, in the last five years a lot has been revealed about culpability for the Katrina disaster; "Heckuva job Brownie," just no longer has the punch it once did. We know too much about the dollar bills in freezers and the culture of corruption and dependence they symbolize, the school buses sitting idle while people were left without means of exit from the city and what they tell us about a state and local administration that could point the finger, but not lift one effectively to assist truly desperate people, and the remarkable achievements of local citizens and businesses, including the dreaded Wal-Mart, who actually helped New Orleans citizens either without any assistance from, or in some cases with the actual opposition of, local authorities. The idea of the "Plug the Hole- Kick Ass" Posturer-in-Chief getting anywhere near condemning federal lapses five years ago has become downright funny.
But there is an even better reason: we expect better of our presidents. A brilliant president whose brilliant advisors conducted the most brilliant campaign in American history might instead consider brilliantly marking the occasion by an invocation of an iconic event in New Orleans' and the nation's past. In December, 1814 and January, 1815, what was then the most polyglot of American cities rose up, and Creoles, Cajuns, Indians, free blacks, smugglers, and pirates joined a desperate, ill-equipped little army of backwoods militiamen and a few regulars. They, as Andrew Jackson who led them said, "smashed" a veteran British invasion force twice their size that threatened to split the new nation in two. Nothing less than the survival of the United States was at stake, and the Battle of New Orleans saved us.
Here is a theme worthy of a president at a time the nation is once again questioning what its future is to be, and troubled with what seems to be a fraying social fabric. Don't descend to yet another transparent pitch for a flawed conception of this country and what it needs. Celebrate New Orleans' resurgence by connecting it to a proud moment when that wonderful city rose to save this nation, rather than stood about waiting to be saved by it.